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Modelling ocean wave dissipation through pancake ice fields

Department of Mathematics and Statistics

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Dr Fabien Montiel , Dr A Suanda Applications accepted all year round Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

In a warming climate, ocean wave activity is projected to intensify in the polar regions. Sea ice forms as pancake ice at the ocean surface under intense wave conditions. Pancake ice is made of round pieces of sea ice with diameter O(0.1-1) m. Recent observations in the Arctic Ocean demonstrated that (i) pancake ice is the prevalent ice condition during the Autumn season in the marginal ice zone and (ii) ocean waves are dissipated as they travel through a pancake ice field. The physical mechanisms governing the observed wave dissipation are not well understood.

We are looking for a suitable PhD student to develop a mathematical model of wave dissipation through a pancake ice field. Several approaches will be considered including effective medium theory and radiative transfer theory. It is also expected that the successful candidate will conduct laboratory experiments in a wave flume to validate the model. The model will finally be integrated in a large scale wave forecasting model to better represent the effect of pancake ice on wave propagation.

Funding Notes

The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr Fabien Montiel ( and Dr Ata Suanda ( The student will have many opportunities to interact with the vibrant NZ community of early-career polar scientists and the broader international communities during conferences.

The project is ideally suited for someone with interests in mathematical modelling, physical oceanography, polar science and climate modelling. A strong background in mathematics and physics, as well as computing skills, are essential. Prior knowledge in fluid mechanics and/or water wave theory will be an advantage, but are not essential. Both New Zealand and international students are encouraged to apply.


Voermans, J.J., Babanin, A.V., Thomson, J. Smith, M.M., Shen, H. H. (2019). Wave Attenuation by Sea Ice Turbulence. Geophysical Research Letters. DOI: 10.1029/2019GL082945.

Montiel, F., Squire, V.A., Doble, M., Thomson,J., Wadhams, P. (2018). Attenuation and directional spreading of ocean waves during a storm event in the autumn Beaufort Sea marginal ice zone. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, DOI:10.1029/2018JC013763.

Rogers, W.E., Thomson, J., Shen, H.H., Doble, M.J., Wadhams, P. (2016). Dissipation of wind waves by pancake and frazil ice in the autumn Beaufort Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, DOI: 10.1002/2016JC011775.

Thomson, J. et al. (2016). Emerging trends in the sea state of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Ocean Modelling. DOI: 10.1016/j.ocemod.2016.02.009.
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